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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

i7S       HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

the conclusion that the ancients were right in believing that the
basis of right education is the training the child receives in the
home from his own parents. On the other hand, he contends
that there is a'corresponding obligation on the part of statesmen
and churchmen to promote education by making provision for
an adequate supply of teachers qualified to educate the young.
In his judgment, the explanation of the badness of the schools
of his day is to be found in the fact that teachers are generally
poorly educated and lack the training necessary for their work.
But how the evil is to be remedied—whether by the action of the
State or by private munificence—he does not venture to decide.
On the whole his hope seems to rest on the State. " It is a public
obligation," he says, " in no way inferior to the ordering of the
army/' The obvious conclusion, though he does not draw it,
is that the same necessity which compels the State to organize
an army should lead it to organize education.

Erasmus's view of education was a typical expression of the
northern humanism alike in its virtues and in its defects. It
had the breadth and sanity and nobility of spirit that character-
ized the literatures on which it had been nourished; but with
all that it was but imperfectly adapted to the needs of the age
to which it was addressed. The classical culture he commended
to the schools might indeed provide the best possible education
for a scholarly caste, like the aristocracy of letters of whom
Sir Thomas More spoke in his Utopia; it was more doubtful
how far it was fitted for men who had to do the ordinary work
of the world. That was a difficulty which Erasmus in his remote-
ness from the multitude never realized. In particular, he failed
to see that the literary training which was eminently suitable for
scholars and courtiers was not so suitable for the rising middle
classes, whose main interests were commercial, and that in any
case Latin could never take the same place in education and in
life north of the Alps as it did in its native Italy. For this reason,
the vernacular languages and literatures, and the new forms of
knowledge unrepresented in the classical tradition, had no part
in his scheme. The former of these omissions called for an ex-
tension of humanism for which Erasmus never felt the need:
the latter for an interpretation of the principles underlying the
renaissance, which meant a breaking away from the humanistic
* Woodward, p. 187*